Entertainment & Arts

Julia Stiles: ‘The roles are better now I’m older’

Julia Stiles in Blue Image copyright Aaron Epstein
Image caption Julis Stiles stars as a single-mum-turned-high-class escort in Blue

Actress Julia Stiles talks about her new drama Blue, why she's embracing maturity and whether there'll be a role for her in the new Bourne film.

She may have found fame as the star of teen movies like Save the Last Dance and 10 Things I Hate About You, but Julia Stiles says she thinks her best roles are still yet to come.

"'[My career] is changing - but I think for the better," she reveals at a London press event to launch her new series, Blue, in the UK.

"Meaning, I'm maturing as a person and an actress, or I'd like to think so. But I think the roles get more interesting as you get older - despite what I've heard other people say or read. I'm excited about maturing."

One part Stiles does have her eye on is a return to the Bourne franchise as Nicky Parsons, after director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon confirmed they are reuniting for a fourth Jason Bourne film together.

"They're writing it now so I'm hoping my character fits into the storyline somehow," she says.

"Matt and Paul have so much integrity that I think they waited a long time before they made another for many reasons, largely because they wanted to make sure there was going to be a story there."

She stops short of confirming her return is a done deal though.

"There's no such thing as definite - things change all the time - but I think they're planning to make it at the end of the year. They're so much fun to shoot, I would love to be a part of it," she says.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Julia Stiles, director Paul Greengrass, and Matt Damon at the premiere of The Bourne Ultimatum in July 2007

Blurred lines

In the meantime, she'll be appearing on our TV screens as a single-mum-turned-high-class escort in her gritty new drama.

The show is airing on the Lifetime channel in the UK, after starting out as an award-winning web series on US network WIGS.

"When we first started shooting, streaming content on the internet hadn't quite taken off and most videos on YouTube were reality-based," says Stiles.

"Now I think people watch TV in so many different ways, and largely from their computer at home, that the lines [between TV and online] are blurred a lot."

The actress says she had some fears about appearing on an online platform, however: "I was excited about the creative freedom, but I was a little bit worried about the commenting, that people could post anonymously [under the episodes]."

The actress admits she found the idea of instant feedback a prospect worse than traditional reviews from critics.

"I feel like people can be inclined to be more nasty, because it's anonymous," she says.

"I don't look at the comments - it's sort of like going on a diet for your ego. If you read the good stuff you have to read the bad stuff and I just didn't want to."

She does think the surge of quality TV programmes being made for both the internet and traditional channels has "made people up their game".

"It's made television so much better. I think there are a lot of really good roles for women out there now.

"But what I like about Blue is you get to see her in so many different lights. She's not just the girlfriend or the wife or the mother, she's juggling many different roles."

'Secret life'

Stiles spent time with real-life escorts as part of her research for the show, which is written and directed by In Treatment's Rodrigo Garcia, someone she's "a big fan" of.

"I read his script and the very first scene hooked me - no pun intended," she laughs.

"I just loved the idea of this woman living this secret life, but that also overlapping with her surface life.

"That one of her clients would be someone that knew her as a teenager before it all started - those two worlds collide."

Stiles says the women she met were "very forthcoming" about the logistics of their lives, but she did find some of the experiences they shared "harrowing".

"At first we tread lightly in terms of the situations Blue finds herself in, and there are certainly moments of humour," she says.

"But when we came back to write and shoot more, I did say to Rodrigo, 'we have to have her in a dangerous, scary situation - otherwise we're not going to be doing justice to the reality of that life'."

Image copyright Lifetime
Image caption Julia Stiles says she is frequently mistaken for other actresses

There is one aspect of Blue's life, in particular, that Stiles says she identifies with: "I do relate to the fact that I, as part of my job, am paid to kiss strangers. It's really strange!"

And she admits she found some of the scenes quite intimidating to film: "It got racier as we made more episodes. I'm still very shy and get very nervous and self-conscious with those scenes.

"I'm lucky one of my best friends is a costume designer, so she's the one that picks out my skivvies. And the crew is very respectful."

The star says she's keen to direct more herself, after a "wonderful" experience writing and directing her own web series called Paloma.

"I learned so much about acting from being behind the camera. I feel like every actor should do that, just to see the other side."

Another skill Stiles won't be letting slide is the professional dance training she had for 2001's Save the Last Dance.

"It's my favourite thing to do - it's a form of exercise but also just sort of therapy - I call it 'my private dance party'," she says.

"I make a playlist and first thing in the morning I just dance in my living room. I highly recommend it, you start the day in such a fun way."

Her teen movie background is the role many of the reporters assembled for Blue's screening still associate Stiles (she politely says she's "so happy" people enjoyed the film).

But she says she still often slips under the radar - although that could all change if another Bourne role comes to fruition.

"A lot of times people recognise me for movies that I'm not even in, which is hilarious," she laughs.

"I get confused for other actresses all the time. In the airport the other day, this poor guy said something like, 'Are you Jason Lee?' - who's a male actor that I did a movie [A Guy Thing] with many years ago.

"I don't know if he misspoke? Or just googled me and didn't realise Jason is a man's name? I get all kinds of things."

Blue begins on Monday 2 March at 22:00 GMT on Lifetime.

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